Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Keeping students safe on your work site this summer

Canadian Contractor

A summer job in construction should educate, motivate, and be safe

You’re hiring some high school or college students to work on your job site this summer! Great! If they haven’t hit the job sites yet they will starting the end of next week. For many it will be their first time on a truly professional site.  A good proportion of them are considering a career in construction and look to this summer as part of their learning experience. Making the experience rewarding means more than just the cash they earn; they want to learn, become competent, and to be inspired. And of course, no one want to get hurt.

As an employer of students for the summer, you and your team of experienced pros have a lot to offer these students, and have some serious responsibilities. Here is a list of just a few things to keep in mind when your excited young work force makes its debut at your site.

Give them a thorough tour of the site
Point out the potential work-site hazards. What’s obvious to you may not be obvious to their inexperienced eyes.

Tell them it’s OK to ask questions
Some students may be too shy to ask a question they feel they should already know. Remind them that no experienced pro on your site today was born knowing everything. Asking questions, especially before starting an assigned task, is smart and safe. It’s also a clue that your initial instructions may not have been totally clear, something for you to consider too.


Watch for those who try too hard to impress
A young student worker may want feel part of the team right away by trying to do too much, too fast. Keep an eye for those who are trying so hard to impress you that they overlook the simple things, particularly safety.

Partner your students with an experienced hand
Your student is keen to learn and would benefit tremendously by being mentored. Hopefully your crew is on board with this idea too. Perhaps some members of your team are better suited for this than others. Don’t let the students go off an work on their own unsupervised of course, but also try to match them with an adult willing to take the time to show how the job is done properly.

Even the toughest workers stop for a rest and drink
There will be hot summer days when working on the site takes a lot out of everyone. No one is impressed with a kid who works a mile a minute for hours, then feels woozy due to dehydration. Be sure your inexperienced workers are aware of the need to take a break, and being properly hydrated  not with sports or energy drinks, but with simple water.
Read: Dehydration; a worksite’s silent summertime hazard
           Should sports drinks be banned on site?

Show them through actual practice that safety is a way of life on your site
In fact, establishing good safety procedures is a key part of your responsibility as an employer.  Make sure they understand the company rules on safety practices, how to report an injury, your company emergency procedures, and where the first aid kit is located.

Train first, not after
Don’t let them use any tool or equipment until they can demonstrate they know how to use it correctly. That might require training on your crew’s part.

Have they received any training in the past?
For example, do they have Working at Heights certification? If the answer is ‘No’, either assign them only to the jobs they are certified for or get them the training for the job you expect of them.

Review their personal safety equipment.
Make sure their hard hats are correctly adjusted, that their boots have steel toes and are laced properly, and that they have eye protection as needed. If they are going to be around moving equipment and delivery vehicles, be sure they have and wear the necessary safety vests for visibility.

Teach them how to lift things properly.
Youngsters often feel they are indestructible and may approach heavy tasks without proper caution. Avoiding strains, sprains, and tears means being sensible on the site. They may not know about this, so you may have to tell them.

The lessons learned working on your job site this summer will last a lifetime for those who carry on with a career in construction. Show them how the pros do things, the right way, and you will get the most of out of them as much as they gain from the experience.

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